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Don Moore's Honduran Journal

Part Three


Olanchito and San Antonio

After Danli I didn't have to wait long for another trip. In Central America the biggest holiday of the year is Easter week. In Honduras most schools and government offices close down the entire week between Palm Sunday and Easter. Several other PCVs from my training group were planning to get together in the village of San Antonio, near Trujillo. There a married couple from our group were stationed. It sounded like a good idea to me, so I made plans too.

On my way to Trujillo I stopped off in Olanchito, home of Radio Lux, 4890 khz. Olanchito is a prosperous banana town, but somehow despite all the local money still manages to be the ugliest town I ever visited while in Central America. The only thing I could recommend the visitor is to take the next bus leaving town. Like many typical Honduran towns, there is a central plaza, or park, with a church on one side. The other three sides each have long one and two story buildings running their lengths. Each building has numerous doors and windows, each section being home of something like the town hall, a store, or a restaurant. In one was Radio Lux. The large wooden doors of Radio Lux were padlocked shut. Above those doors the station name, "Radio Lux" was painted,and to one side "60 Mts." The station only broadcasts on SW, not MW, so I was unable to check on my Sony ICF-7600A to see if they were on the air. The Sony doesn't have sixty meter coverage. I doubt they were on the air however, unless someone decided to padlock the DJ in.

None of the people I talked to had any idea why the station hadn't been on the air lately, nor did they seem to care. Experienced DXers will remember that this station often goes inactive for months at a time. Maybe the staff gets tired of Olanchito (easy to see why) and hops a bus for the beaches at Trujillo.

San Antonio, where I ended up spending rest of the week, is one of about twenty Garifuni villages scattered across northern Honduras. The Garifunis, or Black Caribs, are the decendents of escaped slaves and Carib Indians from the island of St Vincent. This mixed- blood tribe raided plantations on the island until the British rounded them up and deported them to the island of Roatan, off the Honduran coast. From there they spread to Belize and coastal Honduras.

San Antonio is about twelve kilometers west of Trujillo, which is also the nearest town with electricity - making San Antonio a bit of a DX paradise (as if palm-lined beaches mean nothing). There are no radio stations in Trujillo, but several in La Ceiba put in very good signals, as does Radio Roatan. Radio Roatan is interesting in that it broadcasts in Spanish with most of its ads being in English. That is because the Honduran Bay Islands, of which Roatan is the main one, have a population of about half fair-skinned descendents of English settlers, and about half culturally British negroes. Both groups are English speaking. The Trujillo area is much the same, although with large numbers of Spanish Hondurans and Garifunis too. This entire area, the islands and the Trujillo coast was once claimed by Britain.

Today the most popular station in the area is Radio Belize, which puts in an excellent signal all day long. Radio Belize is identifiable as part of the local culture, something the Spanish Honduran stations are not. Radio Belize even broadcasts a half hour in Garifuni every Sunday afternoon, although most Garifunis speak both Spanish and English in addition to their native tongue. Radio Belize broadcasts extensive weather forecasts, something the Spanish speaking stations do not. This is very important to a people who make their living by taking small canoes out into the ocean to fish. The men are very good sailors, and many older men served in the US Merchant Marine during WWII, for which they dual US/Honduran citizenship. Their descendents retain this & many of the young men go to the states to work for a few years, returning with a outboard boat motor and three or four thousand dollars to build a concrete block house. They are then set for life.

MW DXing in San Antonio during the daytime produced some interesting catches. My favorite was picking up a Radio Belize repeater on 930 khz. Stations from Quintana Roo in Mexico were well received, as was the Cayman Islands on 1555 khz. Oddly, none of the English speakers were aware of Radio Cayman. Aside from a few Honduran stations, the dial was otherwise filled with Cubans. During the evening many US stations were heard, but no attempt was made to ID them.

A Reactivated Eco

Among the Honduran mysteries I was able to help solve was the station that popped up on 6000 khz in September of 1982. DX reports seemed to agree that it was located in San Pedro Sula and had identifications mentioning eco. At times it carried programming from Radio Variedades in Tegucigalpa. It was on the air very irregularly at first, and I wasn't lucky enough to catch it. On a trip to San Pedro Sula in October I did the logical thing and stopped by Radio Eco. They were not the right station, but they directed me across town to the right one, El Eco de Honduras.

Rather than being the new station everyone imagined, El Eco de Honduras, HRP-1, was the newly reactivated second oldest station in the country. Founded in 1936, it had broadcast until being closed down in 1972, opening up again in August, 1982. During several subsequent visits to El Eco de Honduras, and one visit to Radio Variedades I pieced together the following. The Cadena Z (pronounced zeta) operates four stations: Radio Variedades (the flagship in Tegus), El Eco, plus Radio Hit in La Ceiba and Radio Iris in Choluteca. The network had rights to El Eco de Honduras' name and call sign, although there was little connection to the original station.

Some DXers speculated that there was a CIA connection as 6000 khz was the old Radio Swan frequency. If nothing else, it could be the old Swan transmitter, now in private hands. The station claimed there was no connection and that they were assigned 6000 khz because it was vacant and assigned to San Pedro Sula. I saw the transmitter and would find it hard to believe it dated back to Radio Swan's time, so I tend to believe them. The director of the station in San Pedro Sula is Victor Angel Fuentes. Henry M. Cabrera in Tegucigalpa is the networks director-general. He plans to open up several more stations around the country and form a third networks rivaling both Audio Video and Emisoras Unidas. Later, glancing through some old FRENDXs, I came across an article on old- time DXing with a mention of El Eco de Honduras being heard in 1935 on 6040, although that would have been a year before I was told they were founded, probably a mistake by the station!

The only other station in San Pedro Sula I ever took the time to visit was Radio Primero de Mayo on 1280 khz. It was hard to get to, being located in a remote northern suburb of San Pedro Sula, however I was motivated by the prospect of helping obtain the longest lapsed time QSL in DX history. At least it must be. Gerry Dexter had sent me a copy of a report he had made to Radio Primero de Mayo in 1963 when they were on 4790 khz SW. Twenty-one years later I picked up the QSL. If that wasn't enough it was signed by the station manager's son, now assistant manager, who wasn't even born at the time of the reception!

Radio Luz y Vida

One of the biggest misunderstandings in the DX world about what I was doing in Honduras was caused by Radio Luz y Vida. Radio Luz y Vida started broadcasting from the town of San Luis, department of Santa Barbara, in 1979 on 1600 khz MW. In late 1980 the shortwave frequency of 3250 khz was added. The confusion that resulted was that many DXers confused me with missionary station manager Don Moore of Oklahoma. On the map, San Luis and Santa Barbara are only about fifteen miles apart. However this is a four hour trip on very out-of-the-way dirt roads. They are some of the worst roads in Honduras. For that reason I only visited Radio Luz y Vida one time - and that was while manager Don Moore was out of town.

Radio Luz y Vida (light and life) has the call sign HRPC, the PC standing for "Proclaiming Christ." Don Moore built the station himself, shipping in parts in large steel drums.

The facilities are located on the far edge of San Luis, overlooking a pine covered valley. It is one of the most beautifully situated radio stations I have ever visited. There are four buildings strung in a line from the road. Closest to the road is the health clinic run by the station. Every morning two nurses treat local peasants for free. Next is the duplex where Don Moore and his family and the two nurses, who are both Americans, live. I visited a while with the nurses, and inside it is just like any typical suburban home in the USA, even having a sliding glass door opening onto a concrete patio. Obviously everyone wanted to bring all the comforts of home with them. Behind that is a shed which houses the two generators (one for the house and one for the station). The town of San Luis only has electrical power from six pm to ten p.m. from a small municipal generator, so they had to bring their own electricity. Lastly there is the station building itself, built of concrete blocks painted white and roofed over with tin sheets. Along one side of all the buildings in a long open field used by Moore as a runway for his plane. He is a member of the Missionary Aviation Fellowship. On the otherside is the pine forest, with the station's antenna tower sticking up out of it.

In the station I met one of the Honduran Evangelists who worked at the station. He had just turned on the station's generator and was getting ready to begin daily programs. Sign-on time is four pm. Inside the station is all concrete and concrete blocks. Nothing is painted. In one room are the two transmitters with a string of a dozen pennants across them (the announcer refused to give me one). In another room are two wooden tables with the studio equipment. At the time of my visit at least, it was still very makeshift. There was a pile of reception reports, including one for a propagationally impossible time. It was the first fake report I came across in Latin America.

What really struck me about Radio Luz y Vida is how detached everyone at the station seemed from the community. It was obvious the nurses just did their job at the clinic and spent the rest of the day in their house. They couldn't tell me anything about the station or even what the announcer's name was. No one else came near their barbed-wire compound on the edge of town. Walking the streets of San Luis that night, I noted only a very few homes with Radio Luz y Vida on the radio. Most were listening to Santa Barbara or San Pedro Sula stations. Sometimes (but by no means always) missionaries in Latin America separate themselves too much from the common people of the towns they work in. One of the great strengths of the Peace Corps is that its volunteers mingle and live among the local people.

Move to Comayagua

In May, 1984 I finished my Peace Corps service. My fiancee, Theresa, whom I had met a year earlier in San Antonio, had joined Peace Corps nearly a year after I had, and had until December to finish. I wasn't ready to leave Honduras, but with no real searching soon had two job possibilities as an English teacher. One was in Tegucigalpa in a private English school. The one I chose was at the Honduran Air Force Academy near Comayagua. I didn't like working with the military, but Theresa lived and worked in the village of San Jeronimo only an hour north of Comayagua, so I took it.

I lived in Comayagua and worked on the base part-time Monday to Friday for the princely income of three hundred dollars a month, a very good living wage in Honduras. I was able to rent a five room house for only $125 a month. I would have prefered something smaller, hut nothing was to be found.

Palmerola Air Base, where I worked, is not only home to the Honduran Air Force and Air Force Academy; it is also site of the largest US military base in Honduras, with as many as three or four thousand troops at times. I was able to take advantage of this in one way. The US APO post office was right beside the school I taught in. I was the only American working on the base who was not employed by the US government, a fact which the people working at the post office did not know. I was able to mail letters and large packages home at cheap domestic postage, courtesy of the US military. There were a large number of American civilian contractors on base building landing strips and control towers, as well as plain clothes intelligence operatives. For all they knew I was one of those. I was never brave enough to try to buy something at the PX though.

If I had wanted something from the PX I wouldn't have had any trouble getting a US soldier to buy it for me. Many Hondurans on the base were making money by getting US soldiers to buy them several cases of American beer, US porno magazines, and even stereos and radios which they could then sell at a huge profit. Every evening when I boarded the base bus to Comayagua there was all kinds of this stuff leaving base, after being shipped in and sold at a loss by the US government.

Comayagua had several radio stations, one of which, Radio Landia became of interest to DXers once again in November, 1983 when it reactivated its 4965 khz SW frequency. While living in Comayagua I made a point of visiting them several times. Fortunately they were once again inactive, so I didn't have my sixty meter band blanketed the way La Voz del Junco did away with forty-nine meter reception for a few months in Santa Barbara.

I never met Radio Landia's owner/manager Rolando Barahona, who also owned the local Texoco station and several stores. A prominent businessman he was often in Tegucigalpa. Usually I talked to Leonell Andino, who was sort of the head DJ. Radio Landia was one of the most cramped station I ever saw. Just two small studios and a reception area in a ten by fifteen foot building, with a toilet stall attached to the side. Painted an ugly sea green with large red letters spelling out the station name, it is one of the first buildings on the main road into Comayagua. Leonell talked to me glowingly of plans for a new large building with several studios, a lobby, offices, and a print shop. I had a feeling thought that Radio Landia was very low on Senor Barahona's priorities.

Other Stations

Honduras has other stations which I was unable to visit, such as Radio Juticalpa, which has probably left shortwave for good; and La Voz de Mosquitia in remote Puerto Lempira, with all its murky allegations of being connected to the CIA. A look over the past two decades of WRTHs shows that commercial stations have all but abandoned shortwave in Honduras, and religious stations connected to Americans have kept shortwave alive in Honduras. Although as a shortwave hobbyist I like to see shortwave kept alive, I see that there is economic sense to what has happened. Honduras is a small country with mainly local markets. Regional stations can do quite well on medium wave, with perhaps an FM outlet to provide high fidelity reception to the city they are located in. There is a need for national coverage by a few stations to allow nationwide products to be advertised effectively. But networks such as Emisoras Unidas, Audio Video, and the new Cadena Z can do that without shortwave. There really is no need for commercial shortwave in Honduras.

Religious shortwave is another matter. Listening to Evangelist stations does not seem to be any more popular or mainstream in Honduras than it is in North America. The audience for these stations is rather specific. It would appear that they are preaching to the already converted, not to potential converts (except for the odd DXer tuning in!). With such a thin audience, shortwave would seem natural for religious broadcasters, who represent a minority religion.

With this in mind, it is not a surprise that most of the potential new stations in Honduras are religious. The only exception is Ondas del Ulua, if it ever gets a transmitter for 4770 khz. Probably the most likely "would-be" SW station in Honduras is Radio Cultural, HRTR, in La Entrada, Copan Department. This Evangelist station came on the air in 1982 on 1450 khz. Later they were frequently heard asking listeners to donate money to help them buy a shortwave transmitter. I even donated five Lempiras. La Entrada is not on many maps of Honduras, so in case it comes on the air the coordinates are 15-05 N, 88 45 W. Additionally, while in Honduras and since leaving I have heard rumors of new religious shortwave stations in La Esperanza, Choluteca, and San Pedro Sula. I won't hold my breath for any of them.

One other category of potential new Honduran stations is in clandestines. There is little question that some of the anti- Sandinista clandestines such as Radio 15 de Septiembre and Radio Miskut transmit at least part of the time, if not all the time from Honduran soil. There have been rumors that some of the jammers operating against the Salvadoran guerilla stations came first from US Navy ships in the Gulf of Fonseca and later from US installations in the port of San Lorenzo.

Honduras has not had much trouble with anti-government guerillas. Still there have been signs of possible guerilla radio contact in Honduras. In late March, 1982 the Honduran army discovered a hidden transmitter on a truck near the point where Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador come together. The transmitter could have been on its way to guerillas in one of those two countries. In August, 1982 another clandestine transmitter was discovered, this time in El Progreso. It was said that the station was within days of going on the air, although a major town would be an unlikely place for a guerilla station. Some real guerilla radio activity came about in November, 1982 when several armed men took over Radio Fiesta, 1120 khz, in Tegucigalpa. They put on a loop cassette denouncing the Honduran and US governments and then left after boarding up the studio doors so well that it took the police half an hour to break in and shut off the tape. All this activity happened before the US became heavily involved militarily in Honduras, so it is not surprising that nothing has happened since then.

I feel sure Honduras will remain a target for SW DXers in years to come. In fact the number of SW stations has probably reached its low point and begun to rebound, and with continued US influence in the region, it would not be surprising to have eight or ten active stations in Honduras in several years, including even some sort of Honduran external service. I don't expect to ever again live in Honduras, but it would be exciting to return to visit all the old stations I know and all the ones that will surely be built.


This article is copyright 1982-86 by Don Moore. It may not be printed in any publication without written permission. Permission is granted for all interested readers to share and pass on the ASCII text file of this article or to print it out for personal use. In such case, your comments on the article would be appreciated.

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